I don't think it makes any conscious choices until it becomes active when it encounters the proper conditions. Until then it could be considered inanimate. It's existence depends on life to become what its programming has set it in motion to do- which seems to be in propagating itself and spreading. I guess that means there were other forms of life already around so it could do the natural thing and that life is all connected to the same roots. A DNA/RNA thing.
Sounds like it does embrace all the actions of life without the problems involved with life or death. A non-thinking non-sentient being that has features of a parasite. Seems like the ultimate unconscionable entity that lives when and where it can flourish- the ultimate trigger to stimulate growth in cells as it feeds/reproduces symbiotically. Who knows now what benefits it has performed in our shared historic pasts. If the common cold is an example, it uses the host for its purpose and then departs to find other receptive conditions to continue its spreading.
If they can survive the conditions of space, absolute zero and heat of entry, then they are closer to indestructible than anything we have encountered. Perhaps this little article will help to give a history of possibilities-
Christopher Chyba, Paul Thomas, Leigh Brookshaw and Carl Sagan wrote a study of this problem, published in Science in 1990, entitled "Cometary Delivery of Organic Molecules to the Early Earth" (12). They carefully calculate the heat generated by high speed impacts with Earth, and then conclude that life's building blocks (not whole cells) could arrive intact. It is reasonable to extend their conclusion to cells, by expanding the scope of their study. Chyba and his coauthors in 1990 admittedly do not examine the case of a comet exploding before impact. However most comets, indeed most large meteoroids of any type except iron ones would explode before impact. In 1992 Chyba and Sagan (13) did address the explosion of comets in the atmosphere and found that for the delivery of intact organic compounds at least, this method of transfer was far more effective than comets that collide with the surface.
The best known atmospheric explosion of a meteoroid happened eight kilometers above Tunguska in central Siberia on June 30, 1908. The explosion flattened the forest for roughly 15 kilometers in every direction. The object was most likely an asteroid, perhaps 60 meters in diameter, because a comet would have exploded higher in the atmosphere. Our knowledge of this event is indirect because no one investigated the site until twenty years after the explosion (14). A similar atmospheric explosion, again over Siberia, occurred in 1947. We know that atmospheric explosions before impact by comets and asteroids are common. An explosion in the air would be much gentler than a collision with either Earth's hard surface or the ocean. Matter on the trailing side of a comet exploding in the atmosphere would be significantly slowed by the jolt. And matter located there would also be the best protected from the heat generated during atmospheric entry prior to the explosion...........<snip>...........On the morning of September 28, 1969, a carbonaceous chondrite fell near Murchison, Victoria, Australia. The parent object disintegrated in the air and scattered fragments over an area of about five square miles. Scientists from NASA analyzed some of the fragments and determined that they contained organic molecules which "seem to have been formed before the meteorites reached the Earth" (26). The researchers took great care to assure that the organic contents were not Earthly contaminants.
Nearly ten years later, German geologist and paleontologist Hans Dietrich Pflug also examined fragments of the Murchison meteorite. Using a new and difficult technique, he isolated from the fragments and photographed some startling things. The photographed forms clearly resemble fossilized cells and virus particles. Pflug considered the arguments for and against Earthly contamination as the source for the fossils and is convinced that the fossils came from space (27). But he is officially noncommittal as to whether they are actually what they look like-cells and virus particles. "There is no convincing evidence that the forms are more than `organized elements,' possibly some kind of prebiotic structures," he now says. Today the consensus is that all such fossils are Earthly contaminants, but the case is not settled. More research is needed.
Recently, new and better methods to conduct this kind of research have been developed by NASA researchers examining the meteorite from Mars designated ALH 84001. Fortunately, similar methods are now being applied to the Murchison meteorite, and the preliminary results are startling. Pictures made available in July, 1997, show microscopic forms in Murchison that look very lifelike.
But of course more research is needed. I will be posting about the lakes under Antartica in Science or Environment and how they may reveal some long lost secrets.
Perhaps humans are just an extension of that basic instruction as well and seek ways that succeed in their spread. We have been called a bacteria before in the Matrix, but we may share the traits of a virus as well. The fact that a virus or bacteria can fit into a cell and a bacteria can feed off other cells, proves that many symbiotic and predatory things have helped to shape us.
Maybe we have more than one set of characteristics that go way back to our initial instructions and those have become our instinctive drive. Sex, death, reincarnation, heaven- prime directives of most thought about existence and its aftermath. Our instinctive drives are the most powerful because their origins and speculations are based on the unknown as well. Many things seem to be unknown and how much of life is guided by speculations is unknown.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe calculated that a particle the size of a typical bacterium might get briefly heated to 500 degrees C. They then cite studies in which E. coli were subjected to close to twenty seconds of flash heating of up to 700 degrees C and survived. E. coli do not normally live in a hot environment; they live in our intestines. There are archaebacteria, however, that thrive at well above the boiling point of water, and many bacteria form heat-resistant spores. It is reasonable to assume that the sporulated forms of some of these could survive flash heating even better than normal E. coli can
The only thing we truly seem to know is that there are a lot of unknowns that drive our actions and decisions. Speculative doubt based on observation and known facts leading to assumed possibilities of origin.
The more we search the more we realize that the origins of life and speculations about death and its aftermath are the unknowns that drive our every action, consciously or unconsciously. We have just evolved an intelligence to answer these unknowns to the best of our knowledge and experience. Thus information is a question of trial and error with a preponderance towards error that makes answering certain questions such a problem. How can one know what hasn't been experienced or fully understood.
Perhaps we'll never truly know everything, but the adventure seems to be in the mystery of discovery as each piece adds to the puzzle instead of solving it. This is why we can be so overwhelmed by doubt, that it drives us to seek and find answers. The pain of not knowing is too hard to bear, so we invent all kinds of solutions that help ease the pain of not knowing.
An array of cellular equipment that could help bacteria survive sudden heating is their set of "heat-shock" proteins. According to the textbook The Molecular Biology of the Gene (31):
"In almost all kinds of cells subject to heat shock, certain proteins (about 17 in E. coli) begin to be made much faster than usual.... Remarkably, some heat-shock proteins of widely different species are closely related; in fact, there are even similarities between those of bacteria and those of eukaryotes.... [W]e have no idea what function they have in common that is essential to save cells from the rigors of a sudden temperature rise...."
The response time of heat-shock proteins is less than a minute in the eukaryotic cells that have been observed for this response. In prokaryotic cells the response would be much quicker, because transcription is simpler and translation begins immediately. The writers of the quoted text do not consider that these proteins could help cells survive the heat of atmospheric entry. But why couldn't they?
Amazing what they speculate about a symbiotically beneficial survival technique isn't it?
I seem to be engaged in that right now!
Hope I haven't caused too much pain. I hope I haven't opened up too many speculations that you and NYGG will find absurd, but I like to go places where few humans would bravely venture. Speculative philosophy is so random that it makes perfect sense to me. It is all we have to venture into the unknown and allow that rhythm to flow.
Doubt turns out to be our most important sense of all and unfortunately may be our demise as well. Another double helix dilemma wrapped within an enigma. Can we survive our own doubts? Will we ever know everything?
Will that take our will from us when we finally attain the knowledge of a god? Perhaps god has run out of new ideas and even he has become as old and useless to himself, as he is becoming to us. The old codger charlatan has outgrown an original purpose and meaning as a virus or bacterium does, but it stills hangs around to infect us and make us aware of our humanity. What can most humans do but pray for hope and understanding.
Enquiring minds have to know! Few can survive the limbo state of speculative doubt, but it is the edge of the knife we have to walk if we truly want to know. No one can predict the future, so we have to have signs and portents to lead us. Science is hoping and praying they can provide that solution before our doubts overtake us.
Perhaps your question may be the key to answering a lot of those mysteries- how can something be classified as a living dead entity? With a mystery like that, who knows where the answers may lie and what directions it will take us.